Tuesday, September 10, 2013

U.S. Versus Mexico Preview and Prediction: Clash of the Titans

Mexico's streak of 5 straight World Cup classifications could come to an end this year and the U.S. could have a heavy hand in it with a win tonight starting at 8p.m. (Eastern time), in Columbus, Ohio.

For decades, soccer on this side of planet Earth has been dominated by Mexico and the United States.

Since the first World Cup of 1930, Mexico has been part of the World Cup frenzy 14 times to the U.S.'s 9 entrances.  Mexico has held the edge over the U.S. for soccer's respect and overall better reputation throughout the rest of the world.

This could be changing and it might be happening tonight.

Tonight's epic clash will provide what this year's Gold Cup Final didn't; the best players playing their hardest. Mexico sat many of its star players as did the U.S. for the most recent encounter this year.

The last time these two countries really went at it was earlier in the year in Mexico City in the first World Cup home and home qualifier.  It was a scoreless draw.

Mexico has maintained some psychological edge over the U.S. from the last Gold Cup that really counted (a Confederations Cup automatic qualification was on the line).

Mexico won that Gold Cup in 2011 on Giovanni dos Santos' wacky, keep away goal and with the win sent a message that they were ascending the ranks.  In fact, with their nucleus of young stars, including Manchester United's Chicharito (Javier Hernandez), dos Santos and others, Mexico was projected to be a contender for next year's World Cup.  They had even snuck into FIFA's top ten in the world rankings.

How quickly Mexico's fortunes have changed.  Currently, they are sitting in fourth place in group standings and not an automatic qualifier for WC 2014.  They haven't found a consistent rhythm and have been on the wrong side of matches too many times.  There is only this match and two more to figure it out.

And, they will have to do it with a new coach after dispatching their old one.

The U.S. is facing its own challenges of lost momentum after having been given a good kick in the rear by Costa Rica Friday night, 3-1.  The U.S. had been on its best winning streak in its history.  There has even been talk of the U.S. being a serious contender at WC 2014.

Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey will lead the U.S., but look for Eddie Johnson to be the difference maker.  If Johnson can get his head on the ball and utilize his athleticism, the U.S. could eke out the victory.  Mexico will be playing with their lives on the line and this could end up being one of the most physical matches ever played between the two North American powerhouses.

Prediction:  U.S. 2  Mexico 2   After all the hype and gritty play, the game ends as a great game with no clear winner and the debate rages on.

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